In a marginal area of Barcelona, where the Ensanche (19th century urban enlargement) begins to fray, a large, imprecisely shaped plot of land reduced a possible dialogue with the place to a succinct soliloquy. The parcel was the result of the fusion of two city blocks – an operation often effected on Cerdá’s grid to accommodate public buildings, such as the Universidad Literaria, the Hospital Clínico and the Cárcel Modelo prison – and from there a severe prism conquers this frontier land, giving urban space the orientation it lacks. The obligatory autonomy of the auditorium is expressed by a contained, compact architecture that makes itself permeable where its longer sides face the Ausiàs Marc axis.
With a rigorous architecture capable of reactivating a declining urban area, the auditorium occupies two full Ensanche blocks, a common practice in Barcelona used for situating public buildings.
The building gravitates around a central void between the two concert halls. Crowned by a large glass lantern, this plaza accommodates the social ritual that comes with all musical performances. Besides the two auditoriums – with seating for 2,340 and 610, respectively – the complex program includes rehearsal facilities, a museum, a library, a center for advanced musical studies, recording studios, restaurants, workshops and storage rooms. The symphonic hall is rectangular, with the canonical proportions determined by acoustic factors, but offers angled views through the alignments of the seats, the premise being that straight frontal perspectives in a theater space are not a prerequisite to the appreciation of music. In early versions of the project the concert halls shared a foyer, shaped around the central atrium, but factors related to the functioning of the stages made it necessary to create two. Such separation of accesses does not however continue on the upper floors, so the dressing rooms can be used by both auditoriums.
The halls follow the canonical proportions dictated by acoustics and appear separated by a patio – crowned by a translucent glass lantern upon which the drawings of Pablo Palazuelo are silk-screened.
The concrete grid that characterizes the image of the building externally is manifested on the interior in the corridors and lobbies, although here it is combined with the same maple wood panels that line both concert halls.
The halls offer to the interior oblique views of the stage from crooked rows of seats, as musical appreciation does not require the full frontality of the listener toward the performance space.
The serene image of the building is that of a concrete grid filled to the exterior with panels of brownish stainless steel. Without letting one guess the enclosed uses, this envelope alters its mute rhythm with the windows jambs, which take their places almost at random between the lines of the concrete structure, like notes on a huge musical score. Like the lining of an instrument case, maple panels soften an interior space dominated also by the severeness of the grid, from which only the Pablo Palazuelo drawings on the lantern are exempt. Having defined this silent auditorium, we can only hope that the reforms being carried out in the vicinity will transform the initial monologue into a choral dialogue with the city.
Consorcio del Auditorio
María Fraile, M. Bertet, M. Molina, M. Company, F. de Wachter, M. Bischoff, A. Peissard, L. Marcial
M. Moneo, J. Jiménez (estructura structure); J. G. (instalaciones mechanical engineering); H. Arnau (acústica acoustics)
Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas